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The Customer

Specialising in geotechnical construction, Keller Foundations is the North American subsidiary of U.K.-based Keller Group PLC. From tuneling support to ground water control, the services of geotechnical construction companies like Keller Foundations lay the critical groundwork for major construction projects worldwide. Now comprising six companies and generating around U.S.$1 billion a year in revenue, Keller Foundations—just 14 years back—comprised only two companies and generated around $120 million a year in revenue.

The Challenges

When it was a much smaller company with fewer business entities, Keller Foundations could rely on its construction accounting solution, CMS from Computer Guidance Corporation. But with much of its growth coming through acquisition, the company soon found itself with multiple accounting packages and reporting systems, requiring duplication of effort and tedious consolidation and reconciliation to analyse finances at the corporate level. Adding to this complexity, Keller Foundations had developed a number of point solutions over the years to tackle various line-of-business needs, such as Human Resources (HR), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), and Customer Relationship Management (CRM), which could not be handled by its existing system. “Following acquisitions and assimilations, we were at a point where we could not, with our existing technology, support our current organisation or any future growth,” says Brian Seymour, CIO for Keller Foundations. “Converting one of our newest acquisitions to the system was such a challenge that we decided not to convert the next acquisition. We were heading in a direction where we were going to end up with a number of financial packages.” At this critical point, Seymour notes, “We brought in outside consulting to review our existing IT infrastructure, and discovered that we needed to very seriously begin looking at deploying an ERP system to support our growing organisation. It was no longer about providing a corporate accounting package, but providing tools for all the operations, which had been neglected for quite some time.”

Before Microsoft Dynamics AX, project information was just numbers on a report. Now those numbers mean something. We can see in a great deal of detail what makes up a number, and now there’s no excuse for not having it.

Brian Seymour
CIO, Keller

The Solution

Keller Foundations began to evaluate leading construction-oriented ERP packages, including those from CMiC, Viewpoint Construction, and Penta. The company also looked at the latest version of CMS. These smaller, construction-focused packages posed a problem. However, explains Seymour, “Although we certainly had to fulfil the requirements of a construction business, our strategic goals were about meeting the needs of a complex enterprise, while providing a catalyst for organisational change through standard operating procedures enabled and enforced by the ERP.” Seymour also notes that as a significant portion of the Keller Group, he had concerns with putting a billion-dollar-a-year business in the hands of companies that were significantly smaller in comparison. Many of the applications that were strictly construction-focused offered few options to extend the functionality of the solution inherently.

At the same time, Keller Foundations wanted to provide tools for all of its operations, not just accounting. To support its myriad business needs, Keller Foundations then looked at Microsoft Dynamics AX on the suggestion of its parent company, which had reported success with other Microsoft Dynamics products in the US and Australia. “We saw Microsoft Dynamics AX as the solution that would take us to the next level as a business,” says Seymour. “It provided the range of modules we needed, so we wouldn’t have to keep building point solutions, while also offering the flexibility to meet our industry requirements.” Deploying Microsoft Dynamics AX Working with its Microsoft partner, and after developing core functional requirements across all areas and business units, Keller Foundations underwent an accelerated, six-month deployment of Microsoft Dynamics AX.

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Project management and financial reporting

Keller Foundations developed a project management dashboard that enables project managers to view all their projects and project costs, and then drill down into those costs to the individual invoice.

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HR and payroll

Bringing its HR functions into Microsoft Dynamics AX from disparate applications reduced redundant data entry and the inherent possibility of errors.

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Keller Foundations staff in the field record their time in Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.

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Resource handling

Microsoft Dynamics AX currently tracks as many as 18,000 pieces of equipment, which can now be paid for by associating them directly to projects.

The Future

As Keller Foundations continues to bring its subsidiaries onto Microsoft Dynamics AX, it has found significant economies of scale in deployment times. Although the initial deployment took six months to complete and then a year to tailor, the deployment time for subsequent companies has been considerably shorter after individual business units gathered their business requirements. Says Seymour, “From a purely IT perspective, it’s about a week of work to configure a new business in Microsoft Dynamics. After the business users undergo training, they’re able to start cutting checks in week one.” Now looking to future growth, Seymour adds, “We really want Keller Foundations to be an efficient operation that is supported for the long term. Microsoft Dynamics AX gives us the ability to scale out, support our operations, and instil the discipline we need to do that.”